“The best and the most accessible one-volume history of communism now available . . . A far-reaching, vividly written account.” —Foreign Affairs
In The Red Flag, Oxford professor David Priestland tells the epic story of a movement that has taken root in dozens of countries across two hundred years, from its birth after the French Revolution to its ideological maturity in nineteenth-century Germany to its rise to dominance (and subsequent fall) in the twentieth century. Beginning with the first modern Communists in the age of Robespierre, Priestland examines the motives of thinkers and leaders including Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Castro, Che Guevara, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Gorbachev, and many others.
Priestland also shows how Communism, in all its varieties, appealed to different societies for different reasons, in some as a response to inequalities and in others more out of a desire to catch up with the West. But paradoxically, while destroying one web of inequality, Communist leaders were simultaneously weaving another. It was this dynamic, together with widespread economic failure and an escalating loss of faith in the system, that ultimately destroyed Soviet Communism itself. At a time when global capitalism is in crisis and powerful new political forces have arisen to confront Western democracy, The Red Flag is essential reading if we are to apply the lessons of the past to navigating the future.
“Detailed and scholarly but written in lively prose, this is a rich, satisfying account of the most successful utopian political movement in history.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review